Stories in this sector

By Lyndal Scobell

Predatory raids on turtle egg nests continue to threaten the survival of two endangered turtle species that nest on the shores of western Cape York Peninsula.

Feral pigs are the most common culprits.  Nearly 100% of Olive Ridley and Flatback turtle nests have suffered predation in recent years. Cape York Sustainable Futures (CYSF) hosted the Cape York Sea Turtle Project for the past six years, working  with Western Cape communities and ranger groups to reduce the impact of predators on the turtles eggs, increasing the chances of species survival.


Seagrasses are marine flowering plants that have adapted to growing in muddy, near-shore environments. They form meadows wherever the ocean is shallow enough to allow the sunlight to reach the sea floor. Seagrass meadows are found in river estuaries, along the coast and, if the water is clear enough, way out to sea in waters up to 60 m deep. Recent mapping of the seagrass distribution along the eastern half of the Northern Territory coastline found over 70,000 hectares of intertidal and shallow sub-tidal seagrass beds.

What it looks like: The Speartooth Shark, also known as Bizant River Shark, is grey in colour, paler below than above. It can grow to around 3 m in length. It has a pale, just visible, stripe across its flanks, a short, broadly rounded snout and small eyes. Unlike in the Northern River Shark, which has uniformly grey skin around its eyes, the eyes of the Speartooth Shark are located at the point of colour change.

What it looks like: The Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin is a small a grey to very light grey dolphin that can grow up to 3 m long. It has a long beak and a small triangular fin on its back, which can have distinctive pink pigmentation. Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins are slow swimmers, usually found in small schools, often in the same areas as the Australian Snubfin or Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins.

What it looks like: The Green Sawfish is large, greenish-brown to olive sawfish. It has been reported to reach 7.3 m in length, but more often grows to less than 5 m. It has a slender, saw-shaped snout with 24 to 34 pairs of teeth, or modified scales, which become closer together toward the tip. Its body is pale underneath and it has rough skin.

What it looks like: The shell of the Flatback Turtle is greenish-grey, has four large scales arranged either side, curves up at the edges, and can be nearly a metre in length. This marine turtle leaves symmetrical tracks in the sand.

What it looks like: The Dwarf Sawfish is a relatively small sawfish that reach only about 1.4 m in length. Its a broad, saw-shaped snout has between 18 and 22 teeth, or modified scales. It uses this highly sensitive saw to detect movement of bottom-dwelling prey, such as molluscs and crustaceans. When threatened, it can also use it as a weapon.

What it looks like: The Australian Snubfin is a small dolphin that can grow to 2.7m long, but is usually smaller. It gets it name from the small triangular fin on its back. Its blunt head has a round forehead and a ‘smiling’ mouthline. Snubfins are pale grey in colour, but in some lights can appear almost black.